George Osborne says today on twitter that a statue of Gandhi will be placed “in front of mother of parliaments”:

As I pointed out the other day, the phrase “the mother of Parliaments” refers to England, not the British Parliament. You can’t place a statute “outside it” in Parliament Square.

For those who missed it, the phrase comes from John Bright, in a speech in 1865:

We may be proud that England is the ancient country of Parliaments. With scarcely any intervening period, Parliaments have met constantly for 600 years, and there was something of a Parliament before the Conquest. England is the mother of Parliaments.

John Bright was a son of Rochdale, about 25 miles from George Osborne’s Tatton constituency (just the other side of Manchester). Bright stood for free trade, electoral reform and religious freedom, and he opposed the Crimean War. I think George Osborne would have liked him.

Photograph by Mike Peel (
Statue of John Bright, Albert Square, Manchester. Photograph by Mike Peel (

Published by Owen Barder

Owen is Senior Fellow and Director for Europe at the Center for Global Development and a Visiting Professor in Practice at the London School of Economics. Owen was a civil servant for a quarter of a century, working in Number 10, the Treasury and the Department for International Development. Owen hosts the Development Drums podcast, and is the author Running for Fitness, the book and website. Owen is on Twitter and

Join the conversation

1 Comment

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *